What are Anxiety Attacks?
Many people have asked me what it feels like to have a panic attack. I have thought about it for quite a long time and the best description I could think of was the video clip just to the right of the page. Just imagine you are driving down the road when suddenly a car pulls in front of you. Immediately a surge of adrenalin rushes through your body, your heart begins to race, you start to shake uncontrollably, and you feel as though you can’t breathe. Now image yourself laying on your couch relaxing after a hard day at work when suddenly those exact same feeling come over you but this time you have no idea what has caused this to happen. Your mind begins to race thinking that something horrible is happening to you. You might think you are having a heart attack or possibly a stroke. Now if someone tells you they have panic attacks you will be able to understand better as to what they are going through. One of the best descriptions is by actress Kim Basinger. She along with other famous and regular people have made a wonderful video called Panic-A Film to help you Cope, where they share not only their stories but their lives. If you would like to watch the entire video please scroll to the bottom of the page for more details.
Anxiety is a normal part of the response to a challenging or threatening situation. As such, it may actually be advantageous. However, severe, persistent or inappropriate anxiety can impair everyday life, as well as affecting occupational and social functioning. Symptoms of an anxiety attack include palpitations, sweating, trembling and feelings of fear and panic, are a common finding among patients in primary care. Patients may complain of:
• primary symptoms of nervousness, apprehension, irritability and restless sleep
• a constellation of physical signs and symptoms, particularly in certain situations or a combination of both.
Anxiety Attack Definition
There are several other conditions that are included under the definition of Anxiety Disorders. Many people experience more than one of these conditions. Our main focus will be on Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic attacks. We will however provide information on the other Anxiety Disorders.
• raging heartbeat
• difficulty breathing
• feeling as though you can’t get enough air
• terror that is almost paralyzing
• nervous, shaking, stress
• heart palpitations, feeling of dread
• dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
• trembling, sweating, shaking
• choking, chest pains, distress
• fear, fright, afraid, anxious
• hot flashes, or sudden chills
• tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles’)
• fearful that you’re going to go crazy or are about to die
This list is just a guide. Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms and some will experience ones not listed here. These are just the most common panic attack symptoms.
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Essential Anxiety and panic attack answers
CAUSES OF ANXIETY ATTACKS & PANIC ATTACKS
Panic attacks take the form of sudden periods of intense anxiety and autonomic arousal. Most occur spontaneously, but attacks may also be provoked by strong emotion, excitement or physical exertion. The anxiety is accompanied by a sense of impending doom, or a feeling that a dreadful event is about to happen. Sufferers fear loss of control (e.g. fainting, urinating or crying out), serious illness or going mad.
Between attacks, most patients experience generalized anxiety to some extent. The condition most commonly develops between the ages of 18 and 25 years, and is about two to three times more common in women than in men. Panic disorder is usually a chronic condition with a fluctuating course, although some patients experience remissions or exacerbations. The relationship between stress and major life events and the severity and course of panic. Because of their severity and sudden onset, panic attacks are often misperceived as being imminently life-threatening by patients (as well as physicians), particularly when the attacks are associated with tachycardia and chest pain.
What are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are sudden surges of overwhelming fear that that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than having anxiety or the feeling of being ‘stressed out’ that most people experience. One out of every 75 people worldwide will experience panic attacks at one time in their lives.
People who have full-blown, repeated panic attacks can become very disabled by their condition and should seek treatment before they start to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack happened in an elevator, someone with panic disorder may develop a fear of elevators that could affect the choice of a job or an apartment, and restrict where that person can seek medical attention or enjoy entertainment.
Panic attacks are not dangerous, but they can be terrifying, largely because it feels ‘crazy’ and ‘out of control. Panic disorder is frightening because of the panic attacks associated with it, and also because it often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide.
Panic disorder is a real illness that can be successfully treated. It is characterized by sudden attacks of terror, usually accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness, or dizziness. During these attacks, people with panic disorder may flush or feel chilled; their hands may tingle or feel numb; and they may experience nausea, chest pain, or smothering sensations. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. A fear of one’s own unexplained physical symptoms is also a symptom of panic disorder. People having panic attacks sometimes believe they are having heart attacks, losing their minds, or on the verge of death. They can’t predict when or where an attack will occur, and between episodes many worry intensely and dread the next attack. Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during sleep. An attack usually peaks within 10 minutes, but some symptoms may last much longer. Panic disorder affects about 6 million American adults and is twice as common in women as men.
Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. The tendency to develop panic attacks appears to be inherited. People who have full-blown, repeated panic attacks can become very disabled by their condition and should seek treatment before they start to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have occurred. For example, if a panic attack happened in an elevator, someone with panic disorder may develop a fear of elevators that could affect the choice of a job or an apartment, and restrict where that person can seek medical attention or enjoy entertainment. Some people’s lives become so restricted that they avoid normal activities, such as grocery shopping or driving.
About one-third become housebound or are able to confront a feared situation only when accompanied by a spouse or other trusted person. When the condition progresses this far, it is called agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces. Early treatment can often prevent agoraphobia, but people with panic disorder may sometimes go from doctor to doctor for years and visit the emergency room repeatedly before someone correctly diagnoses their condition. This is unfortunate, because panic disorder is one of the most treatable of all the anxiety disorders, responding in most cases to certain kinds of medication or certain kinds of cognitive psychotherapy, which help change thinking patterns that lead to fear and anxiety. Panic disorder is often accompanied by other serious problems, such as depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism. These conditions need to be treated separately. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, low energy, and difficulty concentrating. Most people with depression can be effectively treated with antidepressant medications, certain types of psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Take our:
Anxiety and Panic Attack Treatment Options
Many people with anxiety disorders can be helped with treatment. Therapy for anxiety disorders often involves medication or specific forms of psychotherapy or natural treatment options.
Medications, although not cures, can be very effective at relieving anxiety symptoms. Today, thanks to research by scientists at NIMH and other research institutions, there are more medications available than ever before to treat anxiety disorders. So if one drug is not successful, there are usually others to try. In addition, new medications to treat anxiety symptoms are under development. Please be cautioned though, Anti-depressants and benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can not be stopped without a slow decrease in dosage. It is best to try other therapy or natural treatments before trying medications. They should be used as a last resort because of their being highly addictive.
For most of the medications that are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, the doctor usually starts the patient on a low dose and gradually increases it to the full dose. Every medication has side effects, but they usually become tolerated or diminish with time. If side effects become a problem, the doctor may advise the patient to stop taking the medication gradually and to wait a week–or longer for certain drugs–before trying another one. When treatment is near an end, the doctor will taper the dosage gradually.Research has also shown that behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective for treating several of the anxiety disorders.
Behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and uses several techniques to decrease or stop unwanted behavior. For example, one technique trains patients in diaphragmatic breathing, a special breathing exercise involving slow, deep breaths to reduce anxiety. The Healing Panic Attacks Recovery Program provides a web site teaching these techniques The program gives step by step instructions on how to practice these techniques. They should be practiced when you are feeling your best. It will then teach your body to adapt to breathing in this way therefore reducing or eliminating panic attacks. Learning breathing techniques is necessary because people who are anxious often hyperventilate, taking rapid shallow breaths that can trigger rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, and other symptoms. Another technique–exposure therapy–gradually exposes patients to what frightens them and helps them cope with their fears.
Like behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to react differently to the situations and bodily sensations that trigger panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms. However, patients also learn to understand how their thinking patterns contribute to their symptoms and how to change their thoughts so that symptoms are less likely to occur. This awareness of thinking patterns is combined with exposure and other behavioral techniques to help people confront their feared situations. For example, someone who becomes lightheaded during a panic attack and fears he is going to die can be helped with the following approach used in cognitive-behavioral therapy. The therapist asks him to spin in a circle until he becomes dizzy. When he becomes alarmed and starts thinking, “I’m going to die,” he learns to replace that thought with a more appropriate one, such as, “It’s just a little dizziness–I can handle it.”
Please be cautioned to not take these treatments as a substitute for seeking a diagnosis…